Monday, March 28, 2022

"Don't Look Up" shut out at Oscars

Don't Look Up was nominated for four awards at last night's Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing). The film came away empty handed, unfortunately. But the four nominations were all sort of long shots, with maybe the exception of screenplay. 

I don't know how one can write anything about this year's award ceremony without mentioning the slap heard 'round the world. After Chris Rock took the stage to present the award for Documentary Feature, he made a comment to Jada Pinkett Smith, referencing her shaved head by joking that he was looking forward to G.I. Jane part 2. I still do not know (as I was not aware) if Rock understood that Jada suffers from alopecia, a medical condition which causes hair loss. Will Smith, her husband, originally laughed at the comment, but then approached the stage, slapped Rock, returned to his seat and twice shouted, "Keep my wife's name out of your fucking mouth!" 

It was surreal. I, like I'm sure many other viewers, could not believe at first that it was not a bit. It quickly became clear that it was not. I don't want to write a bunch about it, but from my perspective, I'm amazed Will Smith wasn't escorted from the building. He assaulted a presenter. As insensitive or perhaps even hurtful a comment may be, physical violence in retaliation is a step too far. I say this fully appreciating how one's upbringing and culture may strongly influence the impulse to defend oneself or one's family as Smith did. I also believe Chris Rock's comment to Jada Pinkett Smith was inappropriate and should not have been said. 

Will Smith of course later in the evening won the Oscar for Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Richard Williams in King Richard. I was disappointed in his attempt to rationalize his behavior by invoking some maudlin mission of love. I found the speech bizarre and self-indulgent, and his actions "in defense" of his wife to be misogynist and exceedingly juvenile. It completely overshadowed any other nominee's or winner's experience, and the show will forever be remembered solely for this preposterous event. 

Congratulations to CODA for being the little movie that could. Alas, a new season is upon us. 

Monday, March 21, 2022

"Don't Look Up" takes top honor at Writers Guild Awards

Adam McKay scored his third WGA win after being honored with the top prize yesterday for his original screenplay for Don't Look Up. The film was up against King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Being the Ricardos, and The French Dispatch. David Sirota shared the awards with his co-screenwriter credit on the film. CODA won for Best Adapted Screenplay. 

Don't Look Up is up for Best Original Screenplay (as well as Best Picture) at the Oscars next Sunday. Would be a great win for the pic that has been so divisive among critics and fans. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Wish list entry #9: "State of Wonder"

A few weeks ago I finished Ann Patchett's 2011 novel, State of Wonder. It is the first of several I've recently selected which showcase a character whom I expect would be an interesting role for Meryl to portray onscreen. Warning that there are spoilers ahead. 

The story follows a woman named Marina (who is not the Meryl character), a physician in Minnesota who is tasked with tracking down her one-time mentor in the Amazon rainforest. One of her colleagues had previously been sent not long prior, but he ended up mysteriously dying. Her mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson (the Meryl character), has spent the better part of the last few decades in Brazil, working on a drug that allows women to become pregnant well into their seventies. First spoiler: the tribe that Dr. Swenson studies to develop her drug also has immunity to malaria. Marina works for a big pharmaceutical company, so this is a big deal. Second spoiler: Dr. Swenson, a woman in her early seventies, is pregnant. 

Just the plot points aren't necessarily enough to make for an interesting project. My guess is that Dr. Swenson would technically be a supporting character. But knowing how central she is to the story and action, particularly in the latter half of the book, someone with Meryl's star power might be able to snag a co-lead type of categorization. The character is a brilliant, decisive woman (nothing new to Meryl's roles there). But there's a certain subtlety and mystery around her, partly due to the fact that she never had children and now that she's pregnant so late in life (third spoiler: Dr. Swenson realizes the fetus has died inside her around the third trimester and she wants Marina to deliver it) there are a lot of interesting moral and ethical questions the reader can't help but consider. Dr. Swenson is also a rather pragmatic person and physician, something one might expect for anyone surviving in the jungle. This practicality she exudes contributes to the tricky questions that arise, and it's the type of nuanced and "difficult" character and story that I think usually catches Meryl's eye. It also doesn't brush over the physical ravages of age, despite how physically capable Dr. Swenson is and is required to be. And the character gets to speak a touch of Portuguese and the eponymous language of the (fictional) indigenous Lakashi people. 

What's interesting in researching this book was that it was optioned for a limited series back in 2018. A year later, director William Oldroyd (Lady Macbeth starring Florence Pugh and the upcoming Eileen starring Ann Hathaway) became attached. The screenplay started work around the time as well apparently, only for Covid to hit nine months later. I have no idea if Covid was indeed a factor in this not yet having any casting or further production news, but it's certainly a reasonable possibility for why it has not come to fruition, and why it's not crazy to think it still may. 

It would be a great lead role for a forty-something woman of Indian descent (Marina has both Indian and Norwegian heritage). And it takes place in the Amazon, a setting that is different than any Meryl has shot in. This last part might actually be a barrier to Streep taking the part were she offered it, knowing that she's been open about not liking being hot and sweaty. Although, she had a bit of that shooting in the swamp for Adaptation, so if the role is right, she may just try something new. Considering the dearth of casting news we've had for her over the last year, I would not be shocked if Streep's attachment would be the final boost the producers would need for that final green light necessary to get filming underway. 

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Streep on hand as AFI honors "Don't Look Up"

Don't Look Up was among ten films honored at the American Film Institute luncheon yesterday in Los Angeles. It's nice to see her making the rounds in support of the film this year. I also can't help but be a freak about speculating what's she's discussing when rubbing elbows with directors like Jane Campion. 

photo from Variety courtesy of AFI

They must be doing a movie together, right?! A boy can dream. 

Don't Look Up is in contention for BAFTA awards tomorrow in the categories of Best Film, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Score. It'll be interesting to see who's on hand at Royal Albert Hall for the ceremony. Until then, I'll continue to speculate about what kind of character Jane Campion has concocted for our girl. 

Monday, March 7, 2022

Wish list entry #8: "Without Blood"

As I'd recently mentioned I was going to do, I'll be posting a handful of wish list entries in the coming months. My previous entries have mostly been biopic suggestions, including a recent poll opining on whom would be the best real person for Meryl to portray. The upcoming selections I make are going to be adaptations of fictional characters. At this point in Meryl's career, it's going to be more and more difficult to expect lead roles from either original screenplays or adaptations of novels or plays that depict interesting and complex characters in her demographic. Places, Please seems like it would be one (whatever the hell happened to that). The Good House would've been one, but that film is lingering in distribution hell despite good reviews for the film and great ones for Sigourney Weaver. I've taken it upon myself to make a list of and then read novels that depict lead characters that could reasonably be portrayed by Meryl in the coming years. And although I've definitely posted more than eight times in this particular tag, I'm numbering this one because I have a specific title in mind. 

What's kind of weird is that I finished a book this weekend and had planned to write about it today. This morning, however, I came across some news from a couple days ago, in which Angelina Jolie signed a three-year deal with Fremantle, with her first project to be an adaptation of Alessandro Baricco's novella, Without Blood. Jolie was slated to direct the film as far back as 2017, at which time I had read the book, thinking based on the description that it could contain a juicy role. I actually had to do a quick search on the blog to see if I had posted about it back then, as it was definitely something I remember thinking about for Meryl. 

Fast forward to today, and Jolie is going to begin filming in Italy in May. A quick idea of the story with spoilers: a four year-old girl is hidden while her father and other family members are killed sometime possibly around the time of the Spanish Civil War. One of the killers spots her but doesn't give her away. Many many years later (I've seen mentions of fifty years, sixty years, or simply "later as an old woman" to describe how much later..because I don't remember exactly), the woman, Nina, spots the the man who let her go and she invites him to a chat at a cafe. It's got a revenge aspect to it, as we learn that the other killers were systematically murdered over the years, but we don't know the extent of Nina's involvement, no what she has planned for this last guy. It's an intense story with the kind of uncertain moral questions that I suspect Meryl would be drawn to in the character. I don't think it's ever explicitly stated where the story physically takes place at the start. But if memory serves, the later scenes take place in an English-speaking country(?), which opens the possible opportunity for English dialogue from a Spanish-speaking character (y'all know how much I love a new accent from Meryl). 

I can see a few barriers to Meryl being cast in this role. If they do end up having Nina be in her early to mid 50s, then Meryl will likely be out of the running. The last killer, Tito, is supposed to be sixteen years older. But he, too, is described as an old man, and they can always fluff these numbers a bit if they have certain people in mind for the characters in a film version. They also might want to cast a Spanish or Italian actress, if indeed they're planning on portraying Nina as one or the other. I also wonder, if Meryl were somehow to be involved and that it's already going to film in two months, that we wouldn't have heard that her name was attached. Although that wasn't the cast with Don't Look Up, as Meryl was announced as joining well after it was announced the film was going to be made and other actors had already been revealed. 

There were rumors seven years ago round this time that Streep was going to portray Mary Leakey in a bipoic of Robert Leakey (to star Jolie's then-husband, Brad Pitt), entitled simply Africa. That project fell apart, but if there was any truth to that rumor, then obviously Meryl and Angelina had some semblance of a professional connection beyond attending awards shows at the same time. 

The articles from this weekend suggested that there would be more info on Without Blood's production coming up in the near future, which I expect has to include casting news. With how barren Meryl's schedule seems to be at the moment, aside form some reservations I have with Jolie's body of directing work, wouldn't this be a fun addition to her body of work?